Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Paternoster

I spent a day in Sheffield this week as part of a postgraduate exchange between the Sheffield and Durham theology departments. The focus was on New Testament, so I tried to fake a little knowledge of Greek here and there. While the discussions were interesting (postcolonial reading of Flavius Josephus' Against Apion anyone?), the most amazing thing was the discovery of a new gadget. Well, not exactly new....rather old and on the way out, actually, but new to me.

Presenting...the "Paternoster." I'll wait while you read the Wikipedia entry on it. Back so soon? Well, basically, as Hector described it, it's an extremely steep escalator. Vertical, actually. There are two elevator shafts, but instead of elevator cars there is a continuous stream of platforms slowly going by each floor. No doors. No stopping. Just jump in and jump out. Try not to get decapitated in the process. I asked if they had ever lost a graduate student. The reply: not any that we cared for.

An intriguing mystery was what happens if you forget to get off on the last floor on either the way up or the way down. The sign in the back of the paternoster made it even more mysterious: "Overgoing the loft or the pit is not dangerous....but not recommended." That required further investigation. I won't spoil the surprise by telling you what happened.

By the way, you may recognize "Paternoster" as Latin for "Our Father," thus referring to the Lord's Prayer. This seems to be less for the fervent prayers offered by riders for survival and more for the similarity between the Paternoster and a rosary.

You can have a virtual ride yourself, through the miracles of web video:

On a different note, here are the crocus again, now in full bloom.


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